OCEAN COUNTY, NJ – The good news means more New Jersey became eligible for COVID-19 vaccination a week ago.  The bad news turns to ugly when it comes to setting up appointments for the first shot in the arm.

Some frustrated residents submit the challenges are equivalent to timing it right to secure concert tickets at the PNC Arts Center.

Ocean County Commissioners addressed vaccine distribution issues at their meeting yesterday. They also acknowledged that the county’s demographics surpass others as far as vulnerable population numbers.

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“We do not make the decisions on how many doses we receive (for distribution, ) shared Ocean County Commissioner Gerry P. Little. “We would be thrilled if we had enough vaccines that we could vaccinate every single one of the 600,000 residents of Ocean County.”

The county initially received and counted on 5,000 doses for distribution every week. Officials learned yesterday that the state reduced.  Ocean County's allocation to 3,000 first dosages of the two-part vaccines - for at least in the foreseeable future.

According to Little, the state's allotments are based on the number of doses they receive from the federal government in Washington. They also relate to the population numbers in each of the counties.

“We all hope and pray that now President Biden will be able to free up more vaccines,” Little said. “We hope and pray that more become available — not only for Ocean County but for the entire state and the nation.”

Governor Phil Murphy’s key staff had a one-on-one call with county officials earlier this week. They received reassurances from the state government that they are working very hard with the new administration to up the vaccination allotment.

Ocean County distributed 1,500 vaccines during the first week of opening the list to qualifying residents. These same individuals will not have to worry about the second dose as county officials already have them on reserve.

A total of 9,040 individuals received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine through the Ocean County Health Department as of yesterday. The county leads others throughout the state as far as shots in arms.

Vaccination sites overseen by the Ocean County Health Department are located at Toms River North and Southern Regional Middle School.

Little advised eligible residents to visit ochd.org to schedule an appointment. He acknowledged problems people have encountered with the system.  The health department’s phone lines continue to be flooded with people frustrated with attempts to make appointments. Problems are not unique to Ocean County.

“At one point, we had over 200,000 contacts made on the Ocean County Health Department’s website,” shared Little. “They came from people all over New Jersey and our neighboring states.”

Ocean County did not initially have the authority to turn anyone away based on their residency. County officials can now prioritize Ocean County residents.

As Little sees it, distribution should expand further to accommodate the seven million people in New Jersey ultimately seeking vaccinations.  This amounts to the administration of 14 million shots since they require two doses.

“Once we have the supply, there’s only one way that we can mathematically vaccinate this many people,” Little stressed. “Hospitals will need to open their doors to the public. The vaccinations should be available for every doctor’s office, pharmacy, and every supermarket that has a pharmacy.”

“They should be administered the same way we do flu shots,” continued Little. “That’s the only way we can do that many vaccinations in a reasonable time frame.”

Many residents who signed up with the state anticipated an email with scheduled appointments, which has not yet happened. The extension of eligibility requirements changed on January 14 in New Jersey. Specifics are available on the Ocean County Health Department’s website. Other places offering the vaccine in Ocean County include:

Ocean County Vaccination Sites
CHEMMED 1771 Madison Ave, Lakewood 732 364-6666 chemedhealth.org
Long Beach Island Health Department   609 492-1212 lbihealth.com
Ocean County Health Department Multiple locations 800 342-9738 ochd.org
Ocean County Initiatives 10 Stockton Drive, Toms River 732 363-6655 ohinj.org
Ocean County Initiatives 798 County Road 539, Little Egg 732 363-6655 ohinj.org
Shop Rite Pharmacy 297 Route 72, Little Egg   vaccines.shoprite.com
Shop Rite Pharmacy 800 Fischer Blvd, Toms River   vaccines.shoprite.com

The state’s COVID-19 website provides a list of facilities offering the vaccines, including four megasites.  Moorestown Mall in Burlington County represents the closest megasite to Ocean County.  New Jersey residents may also be able to locate vaccination appointments in other areas of the state.

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